It was a weekend and instead of going to a mall to watch an expensive movie, Uttara Narayanan, 29, a social activist, decided to rent the latest Bollywood flick and watch it at home. She was surprised to see that she couldn’t find any movie rental shops in her Bangalore neighbourhood. “I didn’t want to buy a pirated cheap DVD or download a pirated version of the movie, so I went online to search for a video rental around my home,” she says. Her search led her to YouTube. “I couldn’t believe that YouTube is streaming some of the latest Bollywood movies which I wanted to see online for free!”
In October, actor Shah Rukh Khan partnered with Google India to promote his film Ra.One on YouTube. The site celebrated a month-long festival of his movies, which included superhits like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Chak De! India, Kal Ho Na Ho, Om Shanti Om and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, through October.
The model of streaming movies online seems to be working quite well with the Indian audience. Since the launch of YouTube Box Office in June, the website has already garnered over 18 million views and has about 1,500 movie titles.
Free and easy: In several cases, there are no charges for movies online.
Yahoo India launched Movieplex, its online free movie streaming platform, in August, but has uploaded only 30 movies. The company is in talks with both film and television studios for large distribution deals though, and is expected to increase that number greatly.
People who would rather not see pirated movies, and don’t want to shell out huge amounts at cinema halls, now have a number of options. Some of the best ones are:
YouTube’s Box Office
YouTube has created a microsite with ad-supported free movies. There are around 1,500 titles on the site as of now, and most of the collection is made up of older movies from the black and white era onwards. There are many regional language films on the site, along with Hindi movies. If you want to watch Hollywood or world cinema, check the complete listing of the movies on www.youtube.com/movies. Depending on the rights YouTube has, some of them might not play in India.
Upside: There are no delivery delays either.
Downside: Buffering happens fairly often. The films are also being streamed at a lower resolution, and don’t look great on full screen.
Where: Youtube.com/boxoffice for the latest Indian movies. For the complete list of movies on YouTube, go to Youtube.com/movies
Launched at the same time as YouTube’s Box Office, Yahoo’s Movieplex is also a free streaming site for legal movies. The goal is to bring premium, licensed content to viewers, and while there are only 30 titles of Bollywood films as of now, Yahoo says it is working to bring 3,200 films in the near future. It is yet to announce if it will put any other language films online.
Upside: Optimized to work well even on phones.
Downside: Limited number of movies.
Where : in.movies.yahoo.com/movieplex
An extension of the movie rental business, Reliance’s BigFlix launched in November its premium movies on-demand channel online. The service is a paid one and offers live streaming of DVD-quality movies and television shows on your laptop, computer or tablets. It has around 500 movies in all Indian languages, including Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Bengali, Kannada, etc.
Upside: There are no ads and you can watch the movies anywhere on your PC, laptop or tablets. The service also gives you some free movies to watch.
Downside: Since it’s DVD-quality, you also need a really good broadband service. On the current quality of Internet services in India, expect some jerks, if not minute-long buffers in streaming.
Cost: Rs 249 for 30 days of unlimited views or Rs 49 for one movie. Some of them are free to view. Check the website and choose a movie. It might cost you nothing.
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